Jeramey Jannene

Where Are the Missing Ballots?

While municipalities search for missing ballots, voters can still go to the polls Tuesday.

By - Apr 6th, 2020 09:42 pm
An absentee ballot. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

An absentee ballot. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Many Wisconsinites are undoubtedly suffering from political whiplash after Monday’s events. Governor Tony Evers postponed the April 7th Spring Election until June 9th just after noon. Then less than five hours later the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed the decision. Just over an hour after that the US Supreme Court ruled that all absentee ballots must be postmarked by April 7th.

But thousands of would-be voters across the state have another problem on their hands: they requested a ballot and it never arrived. Now the only way they’re likely going to be able to vote is in-person.

That concern was previously blunted by the fact that voters had, under a lower federal court ruling, until April 13th to return their ballots. Municipalities could continue to issue ballots after April 7th to those that had already requested one by the April 2nd deadline. Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht said Monday evening that the city had reissued hundreds, if not thousands, of ballots and planned to continue to do until the rulings came down.

“Ballots mailed around March 22nd or 23rd have been reported in particular,” said Albrecht. “Our records show that we have mailed them.”

It’s not just a Milwaukee problem. Voters across the state are reporting the problem on social media. My father-in-law in Janesville. My wife. Urban Milwaukee’s membership director. CBS58 anchor Bill Walsh. A couple in Oshkosh. This individual in northeast Wisconsin.

They can see their requests on the state’s My Vote WI website, the clerk says it was issued and yet the ballots never arrived.

So where did they go? Thousands of letters take up a substantial amount of space.

“We don’t know what happened to those ballots,” said Albrecht. He said the city has been in contact with the United States Postal Service (USPS), but the postal service hasn’t been able to find them.

“We have been spending the last three to four days trying to rectify that situation,” said the clerk. But that’s created another problem.

Approximately 15,000 Milwaukee voters won’t get their ballots in time as a result of the US Supreme Court ruling. This includes voters being issued ballots for the first time and reissued ballots. The city mailed out the ballots on Friday or later with the expectation the voters had until April 13th to receive and return it. “There is no absolutely no way that that population will have the opportunity to receive their ballot given postal delays, vote and return their ballots by election day.”

If that wasn’t enough, Albrecht is aware of more people that can’t see their requests on the state’s website and that the city never received. “That’s happened to city employees I know,” said Albrecht. Like all of the others, they’ll have to vote in person if they want to vote.

“Municipalities including Milwaukee and the My Vote Wisconsin website are not equipped for the number of absentee ballot requests that came in,” said Albrecht. He said USPS and its workforce have also been strained during the COVID-19 pandemic, compounding delay and uncertainties.

“Obviously this is not good for voters,” said Albrecht. “For a lot of voters, they’re going to feel deceived.”

Mayor Tom Barrett said voters should remember what the state and courts have done. “This has been a very unbelievable day and turn of events,” he said.

State law does allow for a ballot to be issued via email or fax and returned in a printed format. Could that save the day for those with missing ballots? “That’s a terrific idea. The reality is I don’t think there is a clerk across the state that will have the capacity to send out email ballots,” said Albrecht. The Wisconsin Elections Commission further closed the door to the matter during its emergency meeting Monday night.

If you didn’t receive your ballot, you’re going to have to vote in person.

Over 100,000 absentee ballots have been requested in Milwaukee, 55,000 have been returned to date. The Wisconsin Elections Commission reported 1.25 million had been issued as of Sunday evening, with 703,000 returned.

If you are a Milwaukee voter that still has a ballot, you can visit one of the city’s five drop sites from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day to drop off the ballot or one of the five polling places from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. You may also mail the ballot back provided it is postmarked by midnight (which can be done at any USPS post office).

Milwaukee voters that are not registered to vote, need to change their registration or do not have ballots can vote in person at one of five polling sites. They’re advised to wear a mask and bring their own pen.

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Categories: Politics

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